§§ See our review in SJG's Pyramid Magazine.
Shapeshifters Review by Bill Seurer
(Originally posted to UseNet.)A couple people have asked me to describe shapeshifters, so here goes.
Shapeshifters is a boardgame in which each player runs one or more mages whose goals are generally to kill their foes (some scenarios are more complex). It has two boards; one represents the playing field, the other the current "shape" the mages have transformed themselves into.
The combat system is quick and easy and involves a die roll cross referenced on a chart (essentially a standard CRT). You subtract your attack factor from your foe's defense factor (she's doing the same thing at the same time), find the right column, and roll the die to see how many "hit points" you foe loses.
The heart of the system is the transformation system. Transforming involves following paths on the chart paying mana costs along the way. Most shapes have a maintenance cost to stay in that form (except your "native" form). For example, if I was current a Man (native form) and I wanted to transform into a Giant (a 2 step transformation) I would end up paying a few mana to transform into an Ogre (the 1st step along the way), then a few more mana to transform into a Giant, then the cost of staying a Giant.
The chart is roughly divided up into mammals, birds, plants, fish, reptiles, insects, and a few specials (like dragons). Many of the animal shapes have special abilities and those with hands can also cast a small number of more "normal" spells.
Different mages have different limits on how far they can transform (from 2 to 5 nodes), how much mana they have available, how much mana they recover every turn, and how many hit points they have.
I will use a recent 5 player game as an example.
The Newbies, a group of younger but well trained mages, were seeking the fabulous treasures of the Mad Mage rumored to be hidden on and about a small island deep in the forest. The Fuddies, a smaller group of more mature mages, were seeking the same treasure (Hey, my friends made up the names not me). In game terms there were 8 treasures scattered on the map 3 of which were fake. Whichever side got more real treasures off the map would win. The Newbies were three mages one step below the two more powerful Fuddies.
On the first turn both sides spotted the others and everyone transformed into birds (fast and no maintenance cost). The second turn saw everyone racing toward one of the treasures and three were reached, all of which turned out to be real (we decided that you had to be in a form with hands to pick up a treasure). The third turn one of the Fuddies and one of the Newbies both tried to get to the same treasure but the Fuddie transformed into an eagle while the Newbie became a bird. Fortunately the eagle didn't quite catch the bird. Out on the plains one of the Newbies transformed into a Moa (a fast, non-flying bird) while the Fuddie chased after as an Eagle.
The fourth turn was the key turn. The Bird changed into a Fishman and fell into the water. The Eagle changed into a Manta Ray and attacked the Fishman injuring him. The Fishman grabbed a second treasure, though, which turned out to be a fake. Again out on the plains the Moa changed into a man (to grab the treasure) and the Eagle into a Dragon! Uh oh, it was tense as initiative was rolled and the man narrowly beat out the dragon and escaped its rending claws for this turn (Dragon versus Man would have been death to the poor Newbie Man). Fortunately the Fuddie couldn't maintain the Dragon shape. Meanwhile the third Newbie grabbed the last treasure which was real. This gave the Newbies 3 real treasures and the Fuddies 2. But could the two Newbies in close proximity to the Fuddies get away?
The next few turns saw the two Newbies desperately changing from shape to shape trying to avoid the Fuddies. The shapes went through various fish, birds, bugs, and finally mammals. This was the best part of the game ('cept maybe for the dragon) with both sides trying to outguess the others.
The one Newbie (with a LOT of luck) managed to escape, the other didn't. The third Newbie came to the assistance of the other two but was chased off when one of the Fuddies (who had been hoarding his mana) changed into a Griffon and attacked him. The final battle was between the badly wounded and nearly exhausted Newbie as an Ogre versus a Giant and a Griffon.
It ended up the Fuddies won with 3 treasures and one dead Newbie with the surviving Newbies off promising revenge if again they ever met.
P.S. This scenario is NOT in the rules but was being tested by our group. It worked GREAT and was a lot of fun for everyone.
© 1994 Bill Seurer and originally posted to UseNet. Bill Seurer is not associated with Fat Messiah Games. (Bill, if you don't want this posted on the FMG web site, email us!)
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